March, 2010 browsing by month


So… how do you take a picture in freefall?

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

This is a question that I am often asked by people that are not familiar with skydiving and that see my work, and I often joke “just like you do on the ground, I press the shutter release button”

But to give a more serious answer to that I thought I would spend some time explaining how freefall photography works, and how I use it, along with what I know how other people use their cameras in freefall.

My typical setup for freefall is video and photos, as you can see in the image below:

[Photo by Brian Genereux]

In this setup you can see the video camera on top of the helmet and the still camera (Canon Digital SLR) in the front of the helmet.
This is one of many possible configurations for my camera helmet, but this is the most common one.

The video camera gets turned on right before we climb out of the aircraft (on a typical jump, but it all depends on what we are looking for in our video) and the still camera is turned on before the helmet is put on.

To explain how I operate the still camera and why lets take a closer look at the different options for remotes:

1. Tongue switch

This is how I operate my still camera.

[Photo courtesy of Conceptus Inc]

The reason it is called a “tongue switch” is just that, because the switch is activated by pushing the red dot on the remote with your tongue.
For me personally there are two main reasons for choosing this switch (since there are other solutions out there) and the first and most important one is stability.

- Stability: the switch is inside your mouth and all you move to take the photo is your tongue
- Control: the camera only takes a picture when you press the little button
- Safety: connected to the helmet only

- No cons I can personally really think of.
- When you are starting off it might be a little hard to feel if you actually pressed the trigger or not, but it is just like everything else, practice makes perfect.

2. Bite switch

This switch is operated by biting down on the switch. You bite the switch in the red area, and that closes the switch and takes a photo.

[Photo courtesy of Conceptus Inc]

- Control: the camera only takes a picture when you bite down on it
- Security: it is easy to feel when you bite down on the switch
- Safety: Connected to the helmet only

- Stability: Since you are wearing the camera on a helmet that is fitted “like a glove” around your face, biting down on the switch moves your jaw. This could cause movement in the photos.

3. Blow switch

This switch is used by putting a small tube in your mouth that is connected to a switch that reacts to breathing / blowing into the tube. When you blow into the little tube it triggers the switch and that takes the photo.

Disclaimer: I have never used this kind of switch, and there are many freefall camera operators that use these and are VERY happy with them. Because of that I am just passing on comments from other camera flyers.
- very accurate, and very sensitive
- all connected to the helmet only

- a hard breath can take a bunch of photos, specially with the latest 5 to 10fps cameras.

4. handheld remote

This is a classic before the electronics became available to use small switches and cameras were used with cable release remotes. This is still being used however by some of the best skydiving photographers. In this case the remote is plugged into the camera and the cable is fed through the helmet, into the jumpsuit, through the sleeves into the cameraman’s hand.

- very accurate (remotes are being used daily by all sorts of photographers)
- easy to install and easy to buy, every camera store out there or on the internet sells many different remotes

- you have to hold the switch in your hand, in case of an emergency, you have a remote in the hand you would be using to pull your reserve
- the helmet is “connected” by a cable that runs through your jumpsuit, in an emergency situation this could cause a problem. (Although it is more likely for the remote to come unplugged if the helmet were to fall off your head due to an entanglement or “cutaway” of the helmet)

With this list, I hope I explained a bit better how photos are taken. In the next post I want to focus a bit more on how skydiving photographers “frame their shot” as from the photo at the beginning of this article you can see, we’re not actually looking through the viewfinder.

More on the “eye of the freefall photographer” next time!

Happy shooting and be safe!

In closing a photo from a balloon jump at Skydive Arizona during the Holiday Boogie in 2005.

Published on the frontpage of The Herald Leader in Fitzgerald, GA

Friday, March 26th, 2010

The Georgia State Skydiving Record didn’t quite complete, but there was still a lot of media coverage on the event.
It’s not every day that a town gets 69 people in freefall right above them, specially when there are no major dropzones in the close area.

The Herald Leader, a local newspaper for the town of Fitzgerald published a small article, on the frontpage along with a nice shot of the attempt taken by me.

Again another good piece of publicity for the sport of skydiving!

SmugMug – At a 50% discount!

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

In my search for a new way to sell my photographs online, I started trying out Smugmug

In these times of a tough economy and trying to run my business while saving a buck or two, I ran into this deal on 50% off the annual subscription for SmugMug if you use the coupon code on their site!

Just thought I would share this with the world, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one looking to save some money on his annual service bills!

Georgia State Record 2010

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

I just returned from Georgia after participating in the Georgia State Record Attempts at the 7th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Celebration in Fitzgerald, GA organized by Chris Spence of
Another great event put together by Chris and all his volunteers, with support from Skydive the Farm and Skydive Spaceland who provided the airplanes for the event.

A total of 12 jumps were done, first a couple for base practice and then after that the whole group of 66 (+3 camera flyers)

Photos are available through my Smugmug site